Via Tricycle magazine:
Voting is a manifestation of the law of interdependence: Each of our actions, no matter how small, affects the whole cosmos. Our votes count.— Susan Moon
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…as I prepare to return to lower Manhattan for what promises to be our last night without power. Elsewhere along the shoreline, other people won’t find normalcy so soon; one mother in Staten Island lost both her sons when a tidal surge swept away her SUV. Their small bodies were found yesterday.
After tallying the devastation weighing on their respective state and city, Republican Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie and the independent mayor of NYC, Michael Bloomberg, embraced Obama—Christie literally, and Bloomberg by endorsing the president for re-election. In his piece on Bloomberg View, the mayor wrote:
The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast — in lost lives, lost homes and lost business — brought the stakes of Tuesday’s presidential election into sharp relief.
The floods and fires that swept through our city left a path of destruction that will require years of recovery and rebuilding work. And in the short term, our subway system remains partially shut down, and many city residents and businesses still have no power. In just 14 months, two hurricanes have forced us to evacuate neighborhoods — something our city government had never done before. If this is a trend, it is simply not sustainable….
When I step into the voting booth, I think about the world I want to leave my two daughters, and the values that are required to guide us there. The two parties’ nominees for president offer different visions of where they want to lead America.
He goes on to applaud Obama’s positions on abortion, gay marriage, and of course climate change. To that list, I would add one more thing: the economy.
Today’s job numbers aren’t amazing, but they’re solid. And that matters, particularly now that Hurricane Sandy is expected to cost the nation some $50 billion, undercutting GDP growth this quarter by half a percentage point.
Meanwhile, the Congressional Research Service, a non-partisan government agency, found that there’s no correlation between upper class tax rates and economic growth. In other words, they debunked Romney’s claim that he can create more jobs, more quickly by cutting taxes for his fellow fat cats. (CSR also withdrew the report after Republicans complained, but that’s another story.)
Put it all together and what do you have? A president who believes in mitigating climate change in order to prevent future losses—be they of lives, homes, or business—and who’s demonstrated some capacity for hauling the economy out of the quagmire he found it in. And a challenger who mocks climate change and FEMA while advocating dubious macroeconomic theories.
So I return to my earlier question: Really? You’re undecided?
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Especially after this darkness greeted us in lower Manhattan last night. I’ve never seen the city so dark before.
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If, like me, you’ve been blocked from your office by Hurricane Sandy and are monitoring Twitter while still in PJs, you’ve probably stumbled across this Romney quote suggesting we do away with FEMA and transfer emergency-response duties to the states—and, ideally, to the private sector.
“Absolutely,” he said in June. “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.
Now look, FEMA’s open for criticism. Anyone who was alive and kicking during Hurricane Katrina knows that. But Romney wasn’t talking about improving service delivery. He continued:
It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off.
I’ll leave it to Matt Yglesias to dig into the budgetary issues, and to others to comment on the obvious irony of Romney’s views on debt relative to his views on climate change (video below)—at least as far as future generations are concerned.
What I’d like to do is juxtapose this conversation with a new report on charitable giving, which finds that “while 95 percent of the country’s wealthiest households gave to charity last year, the average dollar amount they donated declined by 7 percent compared with 2009, when the last results were available.” That is, even though unemployment is easing only incrementally, and even as the Fed rolls out QE3 to keep the recovery alive, individuals are holding back.
That’s not an indictment of wealthy households. Instead, it’s a reminder of why government matters: because it keeps spending when the private sector can’t or won’t. Likewise, when epic storms hit, the government doesn’t pause to calculate profitability before mobilizing prevention and rescue efforts.
Let’s all keep that in mind on election day.
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I’m sure it will come as nothing of a surprise that I’ll be voting for Barack Obama this election day. I’ll be voting for him because I never expected him, or any politician, to be perfect, and therefore I have less to be disappointed by than other folks I know. I’ll also be voting for him because I believe in women and in people with scant resources. And I don’t get the sense that Romney does.
That’s enough for me to make a choice. For those who remain on the fence (or for those who just appreciate beautiful writing), check out the New Yorker‘s endorsement of the president. It’ll come as nothing of a surprise that the country’s preeminent liberal magazine is endorsing a Democrat. But the piece is possibly the clearest, most elegant political commentary you’ll read this season.
A few highlights:
…Just after noon, Barack Hussein Obama, the forty-seven-year-old son of a white Kansan and a black Kenyan, an uncommonly talented if modestly credentialled legislator from Illinois, took the oath of office as the forty-fourth President of the United States. That night, after the inaugural balls, President Obama and his wife and their daughters slept at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, a white house built by black men, slaves of West African heritage.
Obama succeeded George W. Bush, a two-term President whose misbegotten legacy, measured in the money it squandered and the misery it inflicted, has become only more evident with time….
Perhaps inevitably, [Obama] has disappointed some of his most ardent supporters. Part of their disappointment is a reflection of the fantastical expectations that attached to him. Some, quite reasonably, are disappointed in his policy failures (on Guantánamo, climate change, and gun control); others question the morality of the persistent use of predator drones. And, of course, 2012 offers nothing like the ecstasy of taking part in a historical advance: the reëlection of the first African-American President does not inspire the same level of communal pride. But the reëlection of a President who has been progressive, competent, rational, decent, and, at times, visionary is a serious matter. The President has achieved a run of ambitious legislative, social, and foreign-policy successes that relieved a large measure of the human suffering and national shame inflicted by the Bush Administration. Obama has renewed the honor of the office he holds….
If the keynote of Obama’s Administration has been public investment—whether in infrastructure, education, or health—the keynote of Romney’s candidacy has been private equity, a realm in which efficiency and profitability are the supreme values. As a business model, private equity has had a mixed record. As a political template, it is stunted in the extreme. Private equity is concerned with rewarding winners and punishing losers. But a democracy cannot lay off its failing citizens. It cannot be content to leave any of its citizens behind—and certainly not the forty-seven per cent whom Romney wishes to fire from the polity….
The choice is clear. The Romney-Ryan ticket represents a constricted and backward-looking vision of America: the privatization of the public good. In contrast, the sort of public investment championed by Obama—and exemplified by both the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Affordable Care Act—takes to heart the old civil-rights motto “Lifting as we climb.” That effort cannot, by itself, reverse the rise of inequality that has been under way for at least three decades. But we’ve already seen the future that Romney represents, and it doesn’t work.
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Today marks the first ever International Day of the Girl.
Day before yesterday, the Taliban shot 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai in the neck and head in retaliation for her advocacy of girls’ education. (Thankfully, doctors think Malala will not only survive, but one day return to school.)
Nick Kristof does a better job than I will recounting the story and providing context, so I won’t duplicate his efforts here. But what will I say? What is there to say when a fourteen-year-old girl is targeted because she wants to be a student, a doctor, a politician?
Well, the tragedy got me thinking about orthodoxy. The way that all of us, not just the Taliban, cling to how we think things should be, to what we think we should have. And that reminded of the Anne-Marie Slaughter article about working women having (or not having) it all. I haven’t gotten around to commenting on the piece in depth yet, primarily because I tend to agree with this blogger at the SFGate, who took a step back to consider what “all” means.
Are you a good American? Educated and grass-fed and reasonably free? Then you’ve been hard-wired to believe that “all” denotes some idealized configuration of babies, career, income, marriage, acclaim, health and love and a second house by the beach, all in relatively non-stressful “work/life balance” and with only two full-time nannies, three personal trainers and maybe a mistress on the side — just to, you know, round things out…. [But] in the simplest terms, here’s what everyone from Jesus to Buddha, the most attuned mothers to the most authentically successful (read: honest and humble) businesspeople say “having it all” really means: It means being in true alignment. It means being so deeply present, so connected, so alive…that no matter what your job status, kid status, celebrity status, no matter where you live or to whom you are married, life is already full to bursting.
Or, said in a different way by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, “We haven’t failed as human beings if we suffer.”
The distance between Malala and Anne-Marie is vast, and I think they’re both right to struggle against/with the expectation that they achieve nothing/everything, respectively. There are also millions of girls and women (and boys and men) somewhere in between those extremes, wrestling with the expectations facing them and figuring out what they want.
My mentees are in that middle space. This weekend, they’ll be working on their college essays, for which they’re expected not just to know, but to articulate what they want—and they’re nervous about it. What will they say?
Having not quite figured it out for myself, the only response I can think to offer draws from the space where Malala and Anne-Marie overlap: going for it no matter what the expectations are, and, when you get there, doing as Boots Riley instructs: “bring the people with you, that’s the protocol.”
So in that vein, and in honor of the Day of the Girl: here’s to all our little sisters, far and wide. May they find whatever alignment feels right.
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